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Survey to decide need for Elmhurst LIRR site

Photo by Chris Engelhardt
By Chris Engelhardt

Elected officials joined MTA Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams last week to announce the start of a ridership survey that will determine the viability of reopening the Elmhurst LIRR station.

U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) stood alongside Williams June 21 in Elmhurst at the corner of Broadway and Whitney Avenue, the site of the former station, emphasizing the significance of the LIRR survey and calling on area residents to participate.

Officials said restoring the Elmhurst LIRR station will not only provide residents with an alternative means of transportation, but will create jobs in the community, provide an economic boost to small businesses and will allow New Yorkers to experience Elmhurst’s rich diversity and culture.

“When this station was closed, people thought Elmhurst was done and over with,” Dromm said. “Now we see the revitalization going on in the community.”

The original station site, on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney avenues, was closed and demolished in 1985 due to a reported decrease in ridership following significant changes to train schedules that made the station unattractive to commuters.

Since the station’s closure, officials said, Elmhurst’s growing population has suffered from a lack of efficient public transit into Manhattan. Crowley pointed out that according to 2010 census data, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst are home to one of the most diverse populations in the country, a trend that will likely continue in the near future as the community continues to grow.

Officials announced that there will be two components to the month-long survey, which will begin at the end of June. A written survey will be issued in English, Spanish and Mandarin and will be mailed to households within a half-mile radius of the station’s site at Broadway and Whitney Avenue. The second component will be a survey conducted in person at strategically chosen sites, including nearby subway stations and areas surrounding Elmhurst Hospital Center.

Both will include questions about what means of transportation residents use, how often they travel, their mode of transportation and how they might avail themselves of LIRR service.

“This is an exciting, vibrant, diverse area,” Meng said. “This will help our business, our seniors, our whole neighborhood.”

Williams, who said she was excited about the survey, noted she hopes residents will take the time to voice their thoughts with the survey since officials need to see strong support from the community before making any final decisions.

“We need to be sure before we commit to any investment to reopening the station — that’s about a $30 million project, and we’d get the funding in our next capital program,” she said.

Crowley and Dromm initially called on the LIRR to reopen the station in January 2012 and led a walking tour of the site with officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to further explore the possibility of reopening the station two months later, followed by a town hall meeting with residents in April to discuss transportation issues within the community.

Crowley said reopening the station would not only result in job growth but improve residents’ access to midtown Manhattan.

“We know the people who live in this area want more transportation options, including LIRR services,” Crowley said. “We need to invest in public transportation. Such investments are critical to the future of New York City, our state and our country.”

Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at cengelhardt@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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